3 Tips for Keeping Your Jobs on Budget with ActiveCare Direct

Few things can give you a bigger pit in your stomach than realizing a project is going over budget — a conversation no one wants to have with the project owner. In a recent blog post, my colleague Rob Palermo outlined some tips for how to bid construction jobs more accurately with tools such as Volvo Site Simulation and telematics. But no matter how much effort you put into due diligence in the bidding process, ongoing fleet monitoring while on the job is essential to making sure you stay on track.

Using telematics is one way to avoid cost overruns and keep track of a project’s budget regarding everything from fuel consumption to machine usage to avoiding problems that could spiral into repairs or unplanned downtime. This is an area where ActiveCare Direct from Volvo Construction Equipment excels compared with traditional telematics systems.

Here are three ways ActiveCare Direct can help you stay on budget.

#1 – Identify and respond to machine issues more quickly

Let’s start with one of the biggest differences between ActiveCare Direct and everyone else: fault codes vs. case alerts. If you’re experienced with telematics, you are probably all too familiar with fault codes. These codes indicate an issue but provide no insight into what action you should take next. In some cases, you may have to look up what the fault code means, and then try figure what the problem is and how you might resolve it — unclear of just how critical the issue is. For a mid- to large-size fleet, it wouldn’t be uncommon for the fleet’s telematics system(s) to send a dozen or more fault codes to the fleet manager every day. A large percentage of those might be noncritical issues, like low windshield washer fluid. With a cluttered inbox of noncritical alerts, this leaves the potential of overlooking a major problem pretty high. This is what I call the “telematics who cried wolf” issue – and it’s one that could lead to unplanned downtime that drives up project costs and timelines.

With ActiveCare Direct, on the other hand, the telematics data is analyzed for you. Instead of only a fault code, you’ll receive a case alert that provides a probable cause of the issue, a recommended solution, and the potential consequences of not taking action. For critical situations, your dealer also receives this information simultaneously, which prepares them to react quickly.

Think about what case alerts means for uptime. If a machine experiences an issue, it is quickly diagnosed, its severity is evaluated for you, and you also get answers on how to fix it. Simultaneously, your dealer can look at the information and contact you with an offer for support. Since they have the diagnosis, they will know what tools and technicians to bring to the site (if needed) and could also bring a loaner machine if they know the issue is one that might take longer to fix. With traditional telematics systems on the other hand, the dealer may need to wait on a call from you, and then might need to make multiple trips out (all of which you’re paying for) to get the right solution in place for you.

All of this can have serious ramifications on jobsite productivity and staying on budget.

#2 – Monitor fleet utilization to identify inefficiencies

Another useful way ActiveCare Direct can help you stay on budget is by monitoring machine usage —both across the entire fleet and by individual machines. Volvo provides monthly reports showing a range of data points across the entire fleet.

For example, the report will show you, at a glance, work versus idle percentages by machine type and for individual machines. Appropriate idle times can differ significantly by job, so evaluating this data can help keep your fleet on a positive trajectory and address unnecessary costs by spotting machines that are idling away hours and hurting machine resale value. This can have a significant impact to your profitability, as I outlined in a recent blog post titled, How Machine Idle Times Impact Your Profits.  ActiveCare Direct can also help you monitor fuel consumption across your fleet, identifying inefficiencies to help you realize additional savings.

You can also use this data to identify if you have the correct fleet mix for the job. You may spot that certain machines are being underutilized from an hour or work percentage perspective and that they could be reallocated to another job. Another way this is useful is to identify whether you have the correct mix of loading units and haulers. You might see that wait/idle times for particular haulers indicate, for instance, that you need a different size excavator or loader. Identifying these trends ensure your fleet is as efficient as possible and that no machine or operator is running up project costs unnecessarily.

#3 – Identifying Machine Misuse

Also in the monthly reports is a rundown of potential machine misuse. You can see — by machine and for the entire fleet — instances in which an operator is doing something he should not, such as high-speed shifts on wheel loaders, using the wrong work modes on excavators, and overuse of differential lock engagement on articulated haulers. I recently blogged on five of the most common operator errors that can drain profits.

Catching these issues can lower costs, increase uptime and identify operator training needs — all of which can help keep project costs down.

One of our customers, Insurance Auto Auctions Inc. (IAA), has experienced this in their fleet of over 525 wheel loaders. They used ActiveCare Direct to spot when operators were high-speed shifting, which is when they shift between gears without coming to a complete stop. This can cause serious damage to a transmission over time. With ActiveCare Direct, IAA could see which machines were experiencing high-speed shifts and then trained those operators on the issue, helping them avoid repairs and increasing uptime. IAA estimated they did 10 repairs due to high speed-shifting a year before they got ActiveCare Direct — costing $40,000 each. That means they potentially saved $400,000 a year just on repairs. Imagine seeing a difference like that in your fleet just by reading through monthly reports.

How You Can Learn More

Many newly purchased Volvo machines come with a free one-year subscription to ActiveCare Direct along with a multiyear subscription to Volvo’s telematics system, CareTrack®, which supplies the data ActiveCare Direct analyzes. To learn what machines are eligible for this service, go to the ActiveCare Direct site.

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